In an ongoing series, Taipei Trends meets four very different and successful female DJs as a celebration of women behind the decks. We discover how the boundaries of a male-dominated industry are being overcome as these women are coming out on top in Taipei’s music scene and clubbing culture. Each with their own style and sounds, we ask them what it means to be a successful DJ in Taipei and about their journey to get there. First up, we talk to DJ Noodles, one of Taiwan’s most internationally recognised DJs and DMC (Disco Mix Club) DJ Champion world finalist!
I meet DJ Noodles at her studio in the Da’an district. She has rightly earned her global fame through her scratching and mixing skills and perhaps more importantly, her contribution to Taipei’s music scene through her work as a producer. I am welcomed in her studio, small and heavily kitted out with state of the art DJ and production equipment. Despite her authentic hip hop style and sparkling eyes she seems a little nervous for the interview in English, and I warm to her immediately.
Instant Noodles: The Beginning
Noodles gained her fame from her skills as a vinyl turntablist. As a DJ she is a case of substance and style, and proof that women in Taiwan are carving their own niche in the industry.
“I grew up in the early nineties, listening to pop, grunge, jazz, funk and finally hip hop music.” she recalls. “Everybody starts as a bedroom DJ and the first time I mixed was in my bedroom. I think my Mum was wondering what I was doing because when we mix it is very loud!”
DJ Noodles’ passion for DJ’ing started from her love of vinyl, in an era before CDJs and technological shortcuts for mixing.
‘The first time I got in touch with vinyl was through hip hop tracks so my first DJ skills came from hip hop. If you learn hip hop, it will become a strong base for you as a DJ too. So, I chose to do the hard part first,’ she grins.
Noodles found her inspiration from around the world as she followed closely the work of DJ’s who were developing innovative skills.
‘There are some very great turntablists from Japan, for example DJ Ta-shi. He was top five in the world in the 90’s. He came to Taipei to judge a DJ competition. He was doing super crazy tricks, like smooth scratching and beat juggling. He had a very cool style, like hip hop songs with their original samples, or hip hop with jazz samples. He made a sound so different, it became more like a culture of sound. After seeing him I thought ‘wow that’s cool.’ I wanna be a DJ.’
She began to hone her skills at home, then performing in small venues for students. As with every skill, one learns from their mistakes: ‘The first time I had a real gig outside my bedroom was very terrible. At the time you only had vinyl. And hip hop music has many lyrics, so it was hard to mix. It was very bad,’ she laughs.
But that didn’t stop Noodles, she bravely went out and kept going in order to follow her dream.
Ramen: Success and Popularity
As she gained experience, her knowledge of music helped her stand out above the rest, and she began to get booked regularly.
‘I was working in Luxy as a resident DJ during the golden age. There were a lot of great turntablists like DJ Jazzy Jeff and DJ QBert and DJ Inferno.’
Not only did she begin playing with internationally famous DJ’s, she began making a name for herself in her own right and has opened for the likes of Snoop Dog and Flo Rida. Her success and fame were sealed when she became the first ever (and still the only) female DMC (Disco Mix Club) world DJ Championship finalist in 2006. Her scratching skills, accompanied with blindfolded beat juggling and mixing, stunned a 30,000 predominately male crowd.
The DMC World DJ Championship is the biggest DJ contest on the planet, featuring some of the best turntablists in the scene.
‘For the DMC final I prepared for a whole year. When I finished my set one of my needles was broken and I thought fuck it! And I threw my deck into the crowd. They all applauded. It was an achievement’, she smiles modestly.
Despite Noodle’s success, she has never compromised her roots. When she plays the dominant commercial genres, such as EDM, she mixes the tracks and delivers them with her own touch. ‘My style and roots come from hip hop. So if I play house or EDM it still has those roots. Nowadays electronic DJs, especially EDM DJs, just go one direction. My style is open for a lot of music, and I do it in a hip hop way. I still scratch, fast mix and sample’, she proudly states.
Beef Noodles: Powerful and Delicious
So how does she view herself as a female DJ? And what have been her struggles in coming out on top?
In terms of turntablism, Noodles sees the struggle as purely a physical difference, and partly due to people’s perception.
’I think there are still not so many female turntablists as it’s a bit hard for girls to… how to say… for girls to be a DJ as the hardest part is that it is a tiring job. You have to stay over night, then you must prepare, scratch, and I think guys have more energy to take on this challenge. That’s a slight difference. Another thing is maybe in a club, the crowd will have so many guys, so girl DJs have to do better get attention. If you are only average or at the same level, people will say “oh, still a girl”.’
However, in today’s clubbing culture things are different here in Taipei. Noodles is a woman of experience and also understands the positive side of being a female DJ in this environment.
‘More girls are getting into mixing in Taipei. It’s a good thing.’
Noodles picks up on an interesting point that is prevalent in Asia. There seems to be an abundance of female DJ’s in the clubs, which makes it appear that there is equal opportunity, if not more for female DJ’s.
‘For an industry, girl DJs are faster growing, especially in Taiwan’ Noodles says, ‘in the clubs, female DJ’s are sought after.’
Noodles blurs the line between DJ and producer. If not in the club she is working hard in her studio, not only producing, but also teaching up-and-coming DJs. With her mix CD freshly launched, there is no stopping her.
So how does she relax and unwind?
‘If I am at home, I try not to listen to music’ she smiles tiredly. ‘If I listen to music at home it will be new disco. As I run a studio, six to eight hours a day I am listening to music, even if I am doing my office work I hear it!’.
So what now for the woman that has it all?
‘My roots are from DJing, but now I need to turn to production. I find I am more capable of expressing my ideas. But I think it’s very interesting, as there is a lot I can still use from my turntable roots, even when I play EDM music. Now I can easily read what the crowd wants. That is a good foundation for me as a producer. Nowadays what is more interesting is what’s going to be next for the Mandarin Chinese market. Thats what I am learning now.’
And her predictions for the near future of the music industry? She sees her roots as never far away, always evolving as is she. ‘I notice one thing. Now maybe you go everywhere and listen to EDM, but I think hip hop will come back in another format… very soon’, she winks.
And finally what is her advice to aspiring female DJ’s?
‘In my experience, I think the music and real world is getting more and more complex and broad. So practice more and choose music you like. Mix it in the way you feel it and play events you like and, even more, if u can produce the music you like, do it. That is the most important part. Go with your passion.’